Nalanda Institute faculty

Core Faculty

Elazar Aslan

Elazar Aslan, MBA, CPC, is an executive advisor able to integrate his successful career as an executive and an entrepreneur with his own contemplative practice to provide sustainable solutions to clients inspired by the neuroscience and wisdom behind mindfulness. He received his B.S. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also completed his M.B.A. at the Wharton School. Elazar also has CPC certification from the International Coaching Federation and is a Certified Energy Leadership Practitioner from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching. Additionally, he has 15 years experience as an executive in Fortune 100 companies, 10 years experience as an entrepreneur growing a strategic marketing agency to $86MM in capitalized billings, and has been a certified professional coach for 10 years. Current projects include being founder of A Day of Kindness in Philadelphia, President of the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia, and a NICS board member.

Director: Mindful Business & Leadership. Core Faculty: Mindful Business & Leadership.


Fiona Brandon

Fiona Brandon, MA, MFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice who draws upon Buddhist psychology, depth psychology, expressive arts therapy, dream imagery, and sensorimotor psychotherapy in her work with adults and couples. Brandon is a graduate of the Masters program in Counseling Psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her research focused on the meditative practice of authentic movement, the use of symbols, and dream imagery in psychotherapy. She has taught mindfulness practices at the UCSF Chronic Pelvic Pain Center and has been a teaching assistant at both the California Institute of Integral Studies and the Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Director: San Francisco Contemplative Psychotherapy. Core Faculty: Contemplative Psychotherapy.


Desirée Caban

Desirée Caban, MA, is a therapist specializing in Jungian psychotherapy and somatic experiencing body-based healing practice in New York. After graduating Columbia University’s MA. program psychology, she completed various certifications including Somatic Experiencing training, a three-year trauma intervention program; a yearlong contemplative care chaplaincy program; and a two-year energy psychology initiative including craniosacral training. Desirée is currently completing the requirements for certification by the International Association for Analytical Psychology and certification for licensure as a psychoanalyst. She collaborates in psychiatric diagnostic research at Columbia University Medical Center.

Core Faculty: Sustainable Happiness.


Pilar Jennings

Pilar Jennings, PhD, is a psychoanalyst focused on the clinical applications of Buddhist meditation who has been working with patients and their families through the Harlem Family Institute since 2004. She was awarded her PhD in Psychiatry and Religion from Union Theological Seminary, a Masters in medical anthropology from Columbia University, and a Bachelors in interdisciplinary writing from Barnard College of Columbia University. Dr. Jennings is the author of Mixing Minds: The Power of Relationship in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism and To Heal a Wounded Heart: The Transformative Power of Buddhism and Psychotherapy in Action. Currently, she is a researcher at the Columbia University Center for Study of Science and Religion and Co-chair of the Columbia Faculty Seminar on the Memory and Savery, where she explores the intergenerational transmission of trauma.

Core Faculty: Sustainable Happiness. Visiting Faculty: Contemplative Psychotherapy.


Vance Williams Lavelle

Vance Williams LaVelle, MBA, is a management consultant, executive coach, and CEO Managing Partner at Global Consulting Group. Her work aims to accelerate the achievement of business and personal goals while also enhancing leadership impact through executive coaching. LaVelle received her her MBA from Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University. Her business management has been profiled in numerous print, web, and on-air features including Business Week, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. LaVelle couples her extensive senior executive experience in leadership, organizational, and strategy development with sustainable, mindfulness practices.

Core Faculty: Mindful Business & Leadership.


Geri Loizzo

Geri Loizzo is Nalanda Institute’s Director of Programming and Director of the Mindful Families & Schools Program. She is also a meditation faculty member and has served on the Institute’s board of directors since 2007. She’s had a regular practice of Hatha Yoga since 1982 and since 2006 has studied with Nalanda Institute Yoga Faculty, Mary Reilly Nichols. In addition, Loizzo has been studying and practicing Tibetan meditation since 1999, and has been leading weekly morning meditations at the Institute since 2011. Her mentors include Khyabje Gelek Rimpoche, Venerable Robina Courtin, and Kathleen McDonald.

Director of Programming: Nalanda Institute. Director: Mindful Families & Schools. Core Faculty: Sustainable Happiness. Meditation Faculty.


Joe Loizzo

Joseph (Joe) Loizzo, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and Columbia-trained Buddhist scholar with over forty years’ experience studying the beneficial effects of contemplative practices on healing, learning and development. He is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in Integrative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, where he researches and teaches contemplative self-healing and optimal health. He has taught the philosophy of science and religion, the scientific study of contemplative states, and the Indo-Tibetan mind and health sciences at Columbia University, where he is Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Columbia Center for Buddhist Studies.

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In 1998, Dr. Loizzo opened the Center for Meditation and Healing at Columbia University’s Presbyterian Hospital, the first mind/body medical center in a major academic department of psychiatry, and the first in the West to offer programs in stress-reduction, self-healing, and lifestyle change integrating compassion practice, role-modeling imagery, and advanced breath-control skills with basic mindfulness and yoga.

The Center for Meditation and Healing joined the Center for Integrative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in 2003, to better test and refine the effectiveness of programs. Dr. Loizzo founded Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science two years later, to make these programs more available to professionals and the public at large. In 2007, the Institute was incorporated in New York State as a not-for-profit educational foundation. Since then, its programs and community have been steadily evolving to meet the exponentially growing demand for neuroscientifically informed training in contemplative practices and their integration into contemporary healthcare, business, education, and daily life. Beyond the Compassion-Based Resilience Training (CBRT) and Contemplative Self-Healing Program (CSHP) offered since 1998 at New York Presbyterian Hospital, the Institute’s main programs include its comprehensive Four-Year Sustainable Happiness Program, its historic international Contemplative Psychotherapy Program, its cutting-edge Mindful Business & Leadership Program, and its popular Mindful Families & Schools Program. The Institute’s contemplative teacher training programs include Meditation Teacher Training in Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness, and Yoga, Mind, & Spirit Advanced Yoga Teacher Training.

Raised in Switzerland and educated in a Marianist Catholic boy’s school in New York, Dr. Loizzo was graduated summa cum laude in Independent Study from Amherst College. He completed his medical studies at New York University and his post-graduate training in psychiatry at Harvard’s Cambridge Hospital. His Columbia Ph.D. is in Indo-Tibetan Studies. He also holds an M.F.A. from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers.

His academic honors include phi beta kappa; the Father Chaminade Awards for English and Religion; the first Mosely Prize in Philosophy and Religion; the Herman Wortis Prize in Neuropsychiatry and Medicine; a Mellon Faculty Fellowship in Indo-Tibetan Studies; and a Columbia University President’s Fellowship in the Scientific Study of Religion.

Beyond his teaching at Harvard, UC Davis, Columbia, and Cornell, Dr. Loizzo has lectured internationally on the health benefits of contemplative practices to a wide range of professional and public audiences. He gives frequent talks at Tibet House US on his work weaving humanity’s timeless contemplative sciences and healing arts into modern medicine, psychotherapy, leadership, and education.

Dr. Loizzo’s research has taken him from Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute and Cambridge Hospital westward to the Psychiatry Training Program at UC Davis, and eastward to Drepung Monastic University in India. Now at the Weill Cornell Center for Integrative Medicine, he has completed four studies on the impact of mindfulness, compassion, imagery, and breath-control skills on the lives of women recovering from breast cancer. The positive findings of these studies–marked reductions in stress, traumatic avoidance, and intrusive thinking combined with clear gains in social-emotional functioning and quality of life—have been published in peer-reviewed journals including Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, and Biomed Central.

Beyond his clinical research, Dr. Loizzo has published numerous scientific articles and scholarly chapters on contemplative approaches to psychotherapy, leadership, and education, the role of contemplative self-healing in healthcare, and the Nalanda tradition of mind and health science. This includes seven review articles on contemplative neuropsychiatry and psychotherapy published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychiatric Association Press, and Oxford University Press. His translation study, Nagarjuna’s Reason Sixty with Candrakirti’s Commentary, was one of the inaugural volumes in the American Institute of Buddhist Studies Translation Series distributed by the Columbia University Press.

Dr. Loizzo’s comprehensive textbook, Sustainable Happiness: The Mind Science Of Well-Being, Altruism, and Inspiration was published by Routledge in 2012. He is executive editor of Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy: Accelerating Healing and Transformation, a groundbreaking collection of essays by pioneers of a fast-emerging and highly promising new field (Routledge, 2017). The meditation manuals and CD’s used in his programs on stress, healing and life-change are available through the Nalanda Institute.

Dr. Loizzo lives in Manhattan with his wife Gerardine and sons, Maitreya Dante and Ananda Rowan, where he maintains a private practice of contemplative psychotherapy.

Founder & Director: Nalanda Institute. Co-Director: Contemplative Psychotherapy. Director: Compassion-Based Resilience Training; Meditation Teacher Training. Core Faculty: all programs.


Marco Mascarin

Marco Mascarin, PhD, is a Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, and documentary filmmaker. He is the Co-Director of the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Toronto where he co-initiated Canada’s first Contemplative End of Life Care program. He also serves as Co-Director of the Toronto Nalanda Institute Contemplative Psychotherapy Program and is a faculty member of the Grief and Bereavement Educator training program at the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, where he also serves as a Buddhist chaplain. His work combines extensive knowledge in fine arts, counseling, and eco-theology with more than twenty years of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist practice and training.

Director: Toronto Contemplative Psychotherapy. Core Faculty: Contemplative Psychotherapy.


Miles Neale

Miles Neale, PsyD, is among the leading voices of the current generation of Buddhist teachers and a forerunner in the emerging field of contemplative psychotherapy. He is Assistant Director of Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science where he develops and teaches programs based on Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, meditation, neuroscience, and psychotherapy. Dr. Neale is also Buddhist psychotherapist in private practice where he sees meditators, yogis and those interested in well-being and spiritual development without spiritual bypassing and Instructor of Psychology at Weill Cornell Medical Center where he where he teaches and researches the clinical applications and health benefits of meditation.

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Dr. Neale has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, a masters degree in meditation research from NYU and has spent the last twenty years studying Indo-Tibetan Buddhism with preeminent American Buddhist scholars Joseph Loizzo and Robert Thurman and Tibetan masters Gelek Rinpoche and Lama Zopa.

Recently, he co-edited and contributed his authorship to the ground-breaking volume Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy (2017) and is currently co-developer and core faculty member for Nalanda Institute’s Contemplative Psychotherapy Program, training health-care professionals across all disciplines within Nalanda’s revolutionary vision and methodology. He is also the director of the Institute’s Sustainable Happiness Program. Dr. Neale is also perusing research and development of a Tibetan Buddhist inspired, visualization-based virtual reality program for altruistic leadership and global impact.

Assistant Director: Nalanda Institute. Director: Sustainable Happiness. Core Faculty: Sustainable Happiness, Contemplative Psychotherapy, Compassion-Based Resilience Training.


Mary Reilly Nichols

Mary Reilly Nichols, is the Director of Nalanda Institute’s Yoga, Mind & Spirit and has been teaching yoga for over 30 years. She specializes in yoga with an emphasis on the development of wisdom and experience through the lens of non-duality offered in the Upanishads, Advaita Vedanta, as well as in the Tantric methods of Kashmiri Shaivism and Kundalini Yoga. She holds a BA in anthropology from Harvard University, is a devoted student of Muktananda, and completed five years of residency in meditation ashrams in both India and the US. Currently, Nichols teaches stress management in psychiatric settings and is involved in ongoing research on the mind/body benefits of yoga and meditation.

Director: Yoga, Mind & Spirit. Core Faculty: Yoga, Mind & Spirit; Sustainable Happiness. Meditation Faculty.


Koncha Pinós-Pey

Koncha Pinós-Pey, MA, MEd, is Director of Estudios Contemplativos in Barcelona and of the Nalanda Institute Contemplative Psychotherapy Program in Spain and Latin America. She graduated from Torino University in Italy with a BS in neuropsychology and an MA in Clinical Interventions and also holds a MEd from Harvard University. Currently, she is the director of three graduate programs at Camilo Jose Cela University in Madrid and of two programs within the International Institute of the Sustainable Development Competencies at UNESCO. Dr. Pinós-Pey is an internationally known researcher and teacher of mental health and well-being. She has written numerous articles and books on politics, multiple intelligences, and the neuropsychology of diversity.

Director: Barcelona and Mexico City Contemplative Psychotherapy. Core Faculty: Contemplative Psychotherapy.


Sharon Salzberg

Sharon Salzberg is a meditation teacher, author, and a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. She is one of the most prominent Buddhist meditation teachers in the West and has been teaching and leading meditation retreats around the world for over three decades. Her writings have appeared in numerous publications, including Time, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, BuddhadharmaLoin’s Roar, and numerous anthologies. She is the author of ten books, including Love Your Enemies: How to Break the Anger Habit & Be a Whole Lot Happier (co-authored with Robert Thurman), and Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection.

Core Faculty: Contemplative Psychotherapy.


Sonia Sequeira

Sonia Sequeira, PhD, is a neuroscientist, yoga instructor, and manager of the Drug Development Program for Clinical Trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She has been teaching yoga since 1997 and is a certified instructor in Hatha, Kundalini, and Naam yoga. Dr. Sequeira is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Meditation Sciences and also spearheads the Advances in Meditation Research conference series. Her work revolves around the use of scientific methodologies to study how meditation can be applied to improve health in diverse populations.

Core Faculty: Mindful Families & Schools. Visiting Faculty: Yoga, Mind & Spirit.


Robert Thurman

Robert Thurman, PhD, is a recognized worldwide authority on religion and spirituality, Asian history, world philosophy, Buddhist science, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of the Tibet House U.S., Spiritual Director of Menla, and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies. Dr. Thurman received his PhD from Harvard and has studied extensively with many top Tibetan Lamas including His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dr. Thurman is the author of many books, including The Central Philosophy of Tibet, The Jewel Tree of Tibet, and, most recently, with William Meyers and Michael Burbank, Man of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet.

Core Faculty: Contemplative Psychotherapy.


Bart van Melik

Bart van Melik, MA, is a meditation and Insight Dialogue teacher. His Masters in Psychology of Culture and Religion is from the Nijmegen University in The Netherlands. He is also a graduate of the Community Dharma Leader Program at Spirit Rock and is currently in the Spirit Rock/IMS teacher training program. Van Melik teaches through the Metta Foundation and is a senior teacher at the Lineage Project. He has been teaching meditation since 2009, with a specific focus on working with diverse populations, including bringing meditation to juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, VA hospitals and New York City public schools.

Core Faculty: Mindful Families & Schools.


Emily J. Wolf

Emily J. Wolf, PhD, is a counseling psychologist in private practice integrating contemplative methods of Indian yoga and meditation into Western psychodynamic therapy, recovery, and health psychology. She also is the Director of Nalanda Institute’s Contemplative Psychotherapy Program, deeply invested in training care providers in the healing modalities of Buddhist traditions. Dr. Wolf received her BA in Eastern Religion from Columbia College, PhD in Counseling Psychology from Fordham University, and has studied under Tibetan Buddhist and Hatha Yoga/Ashtanga yoga masters both in the United States and Asia for over a decade. She is co-editor and contributing author of Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy: Accelerating Healing and Transformation (2017).

Co-Director: Contemplative Psychotherapy. Core Faculty: Contemplative Psychotherapy, Compassion-Based Resilience Training. Visiting Faculty: Sustainable Happiness.